Households have more cash to spend
The spending power of households is rising faster in Northern Ireland than any other region of the UK.
Discretionary income in the province, the money left over after bills and taxes have been paid, rose 14.1% year on year, with families £11 better off than last year. The next fastest annual rise was the South West of England which saw an increase of around 9%, according to Asda’s income tracker.
But while Northern Ireland has seen a steep increase spending power, it still lags far behind the rest of the UK, with families here £92 worse off than the national average.
Northern Ireland homes have £88 per week after taxes and bills, compared to the UK figure of £180.
Sam Alderson, economist at Cebr, which worked with Asda on the report, said: “The improvement largely reflects positive developments in the labour market. The rate of unemployment has fallen below the UK average in recent months thanks to relatively strong employment growth.”
But he said a big reason for the steep rise in the province was due to Northern Ireland “working from a much lower base” than other regions.
He said essential spending among Northern Ireland households made up a much bigger chunk of overall income, compared with the rest of the UK.
This would include energy costs, which are typically higher here than the rest of the UK.
Household finances have been helped greatly by a supermarket price war, which has led to deflation in the grocery market, and steep drop in the oil price. The price of petrol fell by 10.5% year-on-year in December.
The report warned of the high share of public sector employment in the province.